United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
W. Grimm, United States District Judge.
case stems from a November 2013 confrontation between a
school resource officer ("SRO") and a student at
Suitland High School in Prince Georgess County, Maryland. The
student, Reginald Jacobs, alleges the SRO punched him in the
face in a hallway outside the school gym just a few minutes
after the school day ended. He has brought this lawsuit
against the SRO, the County, and the Board of Education.
County and the Board of Education have filed a motion for
summary judgment asserting they cannot be liable under 42
U.S.C. S 1983 or the Maryland Declaration of Rights. They
first argue the SRO - who had removed his badge, gun, and
protective vest moments before the assault - was not acting
within the scope of his employment at the time of the
incident. They also argue the school board is not a proper
defendant because it did not directly employ the SRO.
not find either of these arguments persuasive, as presented.
Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment will be denied.
incident that precipitated this suit took place on November
12, 2013, as school was letting out for the day. The SRO,
Charles Pickard, testified in an earlier proceeding that he
confronted Jacobs, then 17, outside the gymnasium after
hearing him say, "Fuck the police." See
Pickard Test. 330:7, ECF No. 66, Ex. .. Pickard had known
Jacobs from past encounters at the school, but because a ski
mask was obstructing part of the student's face, he did
not immediately recognize him. See Id. at 331:1, 9;
see Pickard Dep. 37:1-7, 40:6-134 44:17-21, ECF No.
66, Ex. 2.
Pickard pressed the student to explain the outburst, the
student - who was not wearing a school uniform - allegedly
said, "I have a gun, too." Pickard Test.
330:11-33.1:1.. Pickard immediately reached out to frisk the
student's waistband for weapons. See Id. at
331:19-24. The student allegedly pushed the officer's
hands away. See Id. at 331:25-332:1. Pickard
continued to pat him down. See Id. at 322:3-6. He
did not find a weapon, but he felt a "spongy-like
object" in the students left pocket, which, because of
the way the student smelled, he suspected was one or more
bags of marijuana. Id. at 332:5-15.
rolled up the student's ski mask, at which point he
recognized the young man as Jacobs. See Id. at
332:16-17. When, according to the officer's testimony, he
asked Jacobs to tell him what was going on, Jacobs said,
"F that police stuff. ... I ain't messing with the
badge and gun shit." Mat 333:10-13.
rounded the corner to an empty hallway. See Id. at
337:25-338:3. At that point, Pickard - in what he would later
concede was "a stupid thing to do" - removed his
badge, gun belt (including his gun, handcuffs, baton, and
pepper spray), and vest, placing them on the ground. See
Id. at 336:23-337:3; Pickard Dep. 51:4-12. His thinking,
he testified, was: "[M]aybe I could relate to him. Maybe
we can connect, you know. Maybe this thing can
de-escalate." Pickard Test. 337:2-8.
pressed Jacobs to give up any marijuana he might have on him,
saying he would "just confiscate it, [and] you'll be
on your away." Id. at
339:6-11. He purportedly tried several times
to reach into Jacobs' pocket, but Jacobs kept pushing his
hand away. See 340:21-341:6.
surveillance video of the encounter in the empty hallway
appears to show Pickard grabbing Jacobs and pushing him
against a wall. See ECF No. 66, Ex. 3A. At one
point, the officer backs up and drops to his knees, folding
his hands as if in prayer or as if he was pleading with the
young man. "I said, hey, look, man, I'm praying
please don't touch me no more," Pickard later
testified. The video (which, though helpful, is of
limited value in clearly ascertaining what took place)
appears to show Pickard rise to his feet and punch Jacobs in
the head, knocking him to the ground. The officer's
testimony was that Jacobs - possibly startled when the
policeman "popped up" from the kneeling position -
was simply off balance, and fell. See Pickard Test.
342:20-343:2. He said he merely grabbed Jacob's hood
"so he wouldn't hit the ground hard."
Id. at 343:3-8, 354.
over Jacobs, who was "balled up" on the floor,
Pickard reached into the young man's pocket, where,
instead of marijuana, he found a set of earbuds. Id.
at 343:22-344:3; see Pickard Dep. 53:5-9.
Undeterred, Pickard recovered his badge, gun, and vest,
placed Jacobs in handcuffs, and escorted him to the
school's security office. See Pickard Test.
344:12-15; Pickard Dep. 58-1. He then placed Jacobs in his
police car and drove him to the Palmer Park police station.
See Pickard Dep. 59:7-60:17. Pickard filled out a
form to charge Jacobs with second-degree assault and
disorderly conduct. See Pickard Test. 377:23-378:9.
was never prosecuted. See Mot. Summ. 1. 2. Pickard,
though, was. In 2015, a circuit court judge in Prince
George's County convicted him of reckless endangermen,,
misconduct in office, and second-degree assault. See
Pickard Dep. 72:10-73:9; Am. Compl. ¶ 23, ECF No. 22.
The judge issued him a suspended prison sentence and placed
him on supervised probation for three years. See id.
an internal investigation by the Prince Georgess County
Police Department found Pickardss actions that afternoon were
both unlawful and "unbecoming" of a police officer.
See ECF No. 66, Ex. 9. Accordingly, on July 30,
2015, the Department fired him. See id.
filed this lawsuit in the Prince George's County circuit
court on November 3, 2016, naming not only Pickard as a
defendant, but also Prince Georgess County (the
"County",, the Prince George's County Board of
Education (the "Board"), and the Prince Georgess
County Police Department. See Compl., ECF NO.2. The
County removed the case to this Court in March 2017.
See ECF No. 1.
subsequently filed Amended Complaint, which dropped the
police department as a defendant, sought to hold the three
remaining defendants liable under 42 U.S.C. 9 1983 (Count I)
and Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights
(Count II). With regard to the County and Board, the Amended
Complaint asserted that their policies and practices enabled
the alleged assault in violation of Jacobs's
constitutional rights. See Am. Compl. ¶¶
32, 46. Counts III and IV of the Amended Complaint brought
claims against Pickard exclusively, accusing him of battery
and false imprisonment. See Id. ¶¶ 55-73.
Board and County first moved to dismiss Counts I and II under
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See ECF Nos. 25, 26. I denied the motions,
concluding that Jacobs had plausibly claimed that the County
"knew of, but failed to address adequately, a custom of
its police officers to use excessive force." Mem. Op. 2,
ECF No. 34.
discovery, the Board and County moved for summary judgment.
See ECF No. 63. Their argument, in the main, is that
they cannot be liable under either 9 1983 or the state
constitution because Pickard was not acting within the scope
of his employment when he assaulted Jacobs. Pickard and
Jacobs have each opposed the motion. See ECF Nos.
been fully briefed, the motion for summary judgment is now
ripe for decision. No. hearing is necessary. See
Loc. R. 105.6.